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HIQA: Temperature checks and screening for Covid-19 symptoms should not be carried out in schools

The watchdog has reviewed how other countries are managing the virus in schools.

Image: Shutterstock/Lopolo

SCHOOLS SHOULD NOT close when a case of Covid-19 is confirmed without input from public health authorities, the health watchdog has said.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) issued the guidance after carrying out a review of how other countries are managing outbreaks of the virus in schools.

The review was carried out to support the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (NPHET’s) response to the pandemic, and examined guidelines in 20 countries and two public health bodies relating to Covid-19 in educational settings for children.

The watchdog found that screening for Covid-19 symptoms should not be done in schools, and that schools should report symptoms and or absenteeism associated with the virus to relevant public health authorities.

Guidance published on HIQA’s website today also recommends that all children who have a fever should not to go to school, and that any child who becomes symptomatic in school should be isolated rapidly and sent home or to a medical facility.

It notes that some international guidance advises that children with lingering symptoms, like a dry cough or loss of sense or taste, can return to school if they are otherwise well.

But it says that all guidance documents stipulated that fever must be resolved before a child can return to school.

HIQA’s deputy CEO and director of Health Technology Assessment, Dr Máirín Ryan, explained that Ireland’s guidelines around schools should be informed by international best practice.

“We found that most guidance documents acknowledged the difficulty of there being no single symptom that is uniquely predictive of a Covid-19 diagnosis and that many of the symptoms are shared with the common cold, which regularly affects children,” she said.

She also said that many children who have Covid-19 have no symptoms, but noted that there has been limited evidence of child-to-child or child-to-adult transmission.

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“While recognising that transmission can occur, international guidance documents identified in our review have highlighted the potential adverse impact of school closures on children’s social, emotional, and behavioural health,” she said.

“Therefore, it was important that schools could re-open safely, following Government guidelines.”

Ryan added that the best management of Covid-19 in schools was through prevention, by ensuring that students and staff who have symptoms should 19 stay at home, and that people should practice good respiratory etiquette and wash their hands frequently.

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